Create Buyer Personas for Startups: 3 Tips to Get You Going
As with nearly all steps of the startup process, creating buyer personas comes with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Your company's enthusiasm for the product is met with the challenge of knowing who, exactly, to market it to.
Without a doubt, this is a challenge. But it's not an insurmountable one. This and other related challenges — like a limited budget — can help you approach the process in a way that's particularly smart and effective. Consider, after all, that even long-established businesses with plenty of cash can miss the mark in targeting the right people. A solid strategy, then, not unlimited resources, is needed to create effective buyer personas.
Before getting to a few tips, it's essential to be fully aware that marketing for your startup comes with all sorts of unknowns. There's just no way around it. But while it can feel daunting at times, it doesn't ultimately need to feel discouraging.
Think about the process of doing a giant and challenging jigsaw puzzle. At first, everything feels scattered and unclear. Where do you even start? But if you find those key border and corner pieces, a picture emerges quickly.
Same with a startup. You might have limited data and information to go on, but if you effectively mine what you do have, a clearer vision will present itself.
Tip #1: Narrow down your buyer personas.
One thing that can help you get off on the right foot is escaping pitfalls in the first place. Avoid the common mistake of creating too many buyer personas, which not only wastes valuable time but can lead to a vague marketing strategy later on. Even if you believe your product has broad appeal, it's better to focus on a limited number of well-developed buyer personas, especially at first.
If you're finding this difficult, try flipping the buyer persona process on its head: Who are you not marketing to? This will help you eliminate certain types of buyers and narrow down the pool. But just as significantly, thinking about who your buyers are not can help trigger ideas and insights about who your buyers are.
Tip #2: Be as in-depth as possible with your buyer personas.
As you know, buyer personas contain demographics like age, location, and income level. While these are important, they only scratch the surface of what an in-depth, insightful, and compelling buyer persona can achieve for you. Get into the mindset of going far beyond the surface details of a potential customer and recognize that some insights matter far more than others.
For example, spend plenty of time thinking about how your fictional buyers approach decision-making. This will be more complex information to get than gathering demographics. Still, if you can intimately learn what goes on during the buyer's journey, you'll gain precious insights that you can later use for your marketing strategy.
Since most startups don't have huge budgets for marketing, you should be very strategic about how you spend your money on marketing research. This brings us to the next tip...
Tip #3: Pick your marketing research strategies wisely.
As with any expenditure, you might as well get as much bang for your buck as possible. So when spending money on research, take the time to carefully assess what types of insights you’re hoping to gain, as well as what research methods will be most appropriate to meet those needs.
Again, remember that a small amount of genuinely insightful information about prospective buyers will yield more profitable information than gathering an enormous amount of relatively trivial data.
One way to get meaningful information is through interviews. There's a great deal of flexibility in interviewing someone, so take full advantage of this and tailor the format and questions to suit your needs.
Interviews allow you to pick the brains of people and ask questions that can produce genuinely beneficial responses — responses that you can meaningfully act on. In the interview process, dig deep to discover how prospective buyers navigate the buyer's journey.
Another effective way is learning from competitors. Presumably, your startup differs uniquely from other businesses in the same field. Even so, it's worth your time to learn as much as you can about your competitors' consumers; there are almost sure to be commonalities between their current and potential buyers.
And ultimately, they have at least some history, whereas your startup might have none.
When it comes down to it…
The quality of your buyer personas is paramount. Having reams of information on potential customers is not a surefire way to help you market effectively. What you need is the right kind of information. Accordingly, when visualizing potential buyers, aim to gain insights that will make a difference.
As a startup, you'll have to be especially well-disciplined and creative in how you go about collecting this information. That's a good thing.
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Indeed, let the limitations of a startup business guide, rather than hinder, your marketing approach. It’s better to develop a highly focused and informed strategy than pursue a big-budgeted initiative that yields only mediocre results.